Glorious grilled cheese, the melty, toasted sandwich of childhood dreams is being celebrated this month. Yep, a whole month dedicated to slices of bread fused together with creamy, dreamy cheese.
I’ve written about this tasty sidekick to tomato soup before; waxing eloquent, I might be obsessed.
Food history dates the sandwich back to the Romans, morphing to the French version in the form of Croque Monsieur which introduced thin slices of ham and pungent Dijon mustard. Grilled cheese made its American debut in the 1920’s. Ubiquitous sliced white, squishy bread and processed American cheese were cheap; making a filling meal for budget-crunched families.
I’m a big girl now. My grilled cheese doesn’t look anything like the originals. Honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I purchased a loaf of white, air-filled bread. Does anyone else remember having bologna sandwiches on Wonder Bread, slathered with Miracle Whip? I’m pretty sure one of my siblings lived on those.
These days, the bread is hearty, the cheese assorted, and fruit and vegetables sneak their way in to my hand-held comfort food, which still gets dunked into a cup of tomato soup.
When making a grilled cheese sandwich a few rules should be followed. I’m not really into following rules when cooking, so maybe we should call these really, really good suggestions.
You need to have a cheese that melts well. I won’t go into the science behind this concept, but some just stay crumbly. That’s what certain cheese is designed to do. Others turn into molten goodness when heated. Good candidates for melting are Cheddar, Swiss, Brie, Gouda or Havarti. Increase the melting ease by grating instead of slicing the cheese. This isn’t necessary, but the result is superb.
Pick sturdy bread, maybe even one that compliments the cheese. For example, I will pair cinnamon raisin bread with snappy, sharp cheddar. Apply butter, olive oil even a smattering of mayo to the outside of the bread. This is an important step to achieve the desired crisp, toasted result.
Keep it simple, or choose some add-ins. This is where you can be an innovative genius (and wow your family and friends.) Think about tucking in some fresh basil leaves and sundried tomatoes, thin slices of apple, roasted beets or bits of ham. Spread on some pesto or sweet-hot pepper jelly. This is also where other cheese can come into play – those that don’t fit the molten-factor, but up the flavor sketch. Feta with spinach leaves, parmesan and pears, or how about asparagus with brie?
The final tip is, don’t be in a hurry. The last thing you want to happen to your brilliant creation is turning it into burnt toast. Heat the skillet to a medium-low temp. Allow the bread to toast, forming a crust before sticking a lid on it to capture the heat. Flip the sandwich and repeat.
cheese + bread = a happy me